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Pierre d’Assy (bass) - Airs et melodies
rec. 1908-09 Paris
No texts
MUSIQUE EN WALLONIE MEW1683 [71:35 + 66:53]

Born in Liège, the birthplace of the great violinist Eugène Ysaÿe, the Belgian bass Pierre D’Assy was christened Pierre-Joseph-Alphonse Bordet (1868-1910). He took his stage name from his wealthy father’s alcohol distillation company, Maison Bordet Dassy’s Classic Gin. He became increasingly well-known before the turn of the century, by which time he had changed his name and pursued further studies in Paris. He absorbed much of the French repertoire before taking on Wagnerian roles around 1901, sang with increasingly important international artists – such as Litvinne and Farrar - and at the premiere of Faure’s Prométhée in 1907, in a performance conducted by the composer. This makes his early and sudden death in March 1910 – the cause seems to have been acute uremia – all the more saddening.

D’Assy made around 48 individual recordings, almost all of which were released. His first sessions are dated to around October 1908 and he continued in the studios until July the following year. Some of the recordings feature other singers, sopranos Marthe Bakkers and Berthe Auguez de Montalant, contralto Suzanne Bruhly, tenors Antonio Rocca and Georges Régis, and baritone Émile Boussagol.

The repertoire happily reflected his performances on the stages at La Monnaie and Garnier, though there are certainly some reportorial rarities, and things he didn’t sing on stage. Many of the orchestral accompaniments are dominated by the kind of brass-and-wind sonorities that recorded better than strings but d’Assy’s voice is nicely forward in almost all examples of his art in this well-filled twofer. His projection and enunciation alike are excellent, with a pronounced rolling of the ‘r’ (in that he was hardly alone). He is a stylish interpreter and stylistically apt. Given the truncated nature of his recording career a decision has been taken to group the 78s by composer, which I think sensible. His Meyerbeer is rousing and sonorous and he rises above the scrappy choral contributions with ease in the brief examples from Les Huguenots, whilst he’s villainously characterful in L’Africaine. There are a number of valuable extracts from Gounod’s Faust in which he’s paired with the slightly reedy but confident Rocca and the excellent de Montalant and these examples constitute the most extensive number of sides from a specific work that he was to record. His Mephistopheles is sinuously insinuating, with a laugh both resonant and sepulchral. In this context it’s especially interesting to encounter composer Émile Paladilhe, far less well remembered now.

There’s a single example of Mozart here – O Isis und Osiris, though inevitably sung in French. Listen closely and you can hear him cough just after the recording is underway: again, the voice is round, even, well-produced. He is one of those early basses who can manage to get swagger into his singing, as he demonstrates in Adam and the sole example of Berlioz reveals him to be a thoughtful and stylishly effective exponent. The twofer ends with a brief sequence of more popular items. Nadaud’s Le soldat de Marsala is sung with appropriate martial brio and the elite accompaniment of le Garde républicaine join him for a song by Robert Planquette. These last items reveal d’Assy’s versatility across a spectrum of repertoire. If only he had lived longer he may well have been recorded in a complete opera in Paris.
Musique en Wallonie take tremendous care in packaging their solo artist collections. In a hard book format, the splendid notes are augmented by beautifully reproduced photographs and full discographic details. The transfers are excellent, retaining surface noise but ensuring the voice is central and forward in the balance. I can’t imagine this being done any better.

Jonathan Woolf
Robert le Diable, Acte III Scène 7: Scène et Évocation "Voici donc les débris du monastère" - "Nonnes, qui reposez sous cette froi [3:14]
Les huguenots, Acte I Scène 3: Chanson huguenote "Pour les couvents" - "Piff, paff, pouff" (Marcel) [3:08]
Les huguenots, Acte IV Scène 3: Conjuration "Des troubles renaissants" - "Pour cette cause sainte" (Saint-Bris, Valentine, Nevers [4:11]
Les huguenots, Acte IV Scène 5: Bénédiction des poignards "Gloire au grand dieu vengeur!" (Saint-Bris et chœur) [4:04]
Le pardon de Ploërmel, Acte III Scène 1: Chant du chasseur "En chasse" [3:26]
L'Africaine, Acte III Scène 2: Ballade "Adamastor, roi des vagues" (Nélusko et chœur) [3:37]
L'Africaine, Acte IV Scène 3: Scène "Brama! Vichnou! Shiva!" (Grand Brahmine et chœur) [3:32]
La Juive, Acte III Scène 2: Anathème "Vous qui du dieu vivant outragez la puissance" (Brogni)
Les vêpres siciliennes, Acte II Scène 1: Air "Et toi, Palerme" (Jean de Procida) [4:14]
Faust, Acte I Scènes 1 & 2: Scène et duo "Mais ce dieu que peut-il pour moi" (Méphistophélès et Faust) [4:08]
Faust, Acte I Scènes 1 & 2: Scène et duo "À moi les plaisirs" (Méphistophélès et Faust) [3:53]
Faust, Acte II Scène 3: Ronde "Le veau d'or est toujours debout" (Méphistophélès) [2:02]
Faust, Acte IV 2e tableau: Scène de l'église "Seigneur, daignez permettre à votre humble servante" (Méphistophélès, Marguerite) [4:03]
Faust, Acte IV 2e tableau: Scène de l'église "Quand du seigneur" (Méphistophélès, Marguerite et chœur) [4:34]
Faust, Acte IV 3e tableau: Sérénade "Vous qui faites l'endormie" (Méphistophélès) [2:55]
Faust, Acte V 4e tableau: Trio final "Alerte, alerte, ou vous êtes perdus !" (Méphistophélès, Marguerite et Faust) [3:01]
Sigurd, Acte III Scène 6: Scène "Au nom du roi Gunther" (Hagen) [2:54]
Hérodiade, Acte III Scène 8: Air "Astres étincelants que l'infini promène" (Phanuel) [3:41]
Le roi de Lahore, Acte IV Scène 2: Récit et Arioso "Aux troupes du sultan qui menaçaient Lahore" - "Promesse de mon avenir" [3:58]
Patrie, Acte IV Scène 6: Air "Pauvre martyr obscur" (Rysoor) [4:09]
CD 2
La flûte enchantée, Acte II Scène 1: Air "Isis, c'est l'heure" (Sarastro) [3:10]
Le barbier de Séville, Acte I Scène 8: Air de la calomnie "C'est d'abord rumeur légère" (Don Basilio) [3:59]
Le val d'Andorre, Acte I Scène 4: Chanson du chevrier "Voilà le sorcier" (Jacques Sincère)
Le chalet, Scène 13: Duo "Il faut me céder ta maitresse" (Max et Daniel) [3:37]
Le chalet, Scène 13: Cantabile et Allegro "Dans ce bois de sapin" (Max et Daniel) [3:54]
La damnation de Faust, deuxième partie: Chanson de Brander et Fugue [4:15]
Mignon, Acte I Scène 8: Duo "Légères hirondelles" (Lothario et Mignon) [3:13]
Mignon, Acte II Scène 2: Duo "As-tu souffert? As-tu pleuré?" (Lothario et Mignon)
Philémon et Baucis, Acte I Scène 4: Couplets "Au bruit des lourds marteaux" (Vulcain)
Mireille, Acte II Scène 6: Air "Si les filles d'Arles sont reines" (Ourrias) [3:56]
Mireille, Acte III Scène 1: Air "Voici le val d'enfer" (Ourrias et chœur) [3:52]
Roméo et Juliette, Acte I Scène 1: Air "Allons jeunes gens" (Capulet) [2:32]
Les noces de Jeannette, Scène 4: Chanson "Margot, lève ton sabot" (Jean) [2:10]
Carmen, Acte II Scène 2: Air du toréador "Votre toast" (Escamillo) [4:22]
Le muletier de Castille [3:06]
Le soldat de Marsala [3:39]
Le cor [3:29]
Le régiment de Sambre et Meuse [4:05]
Marche Lorraine [04:24]



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